Dates: 13-15 February 2023
Location: Juba, South Sudan
Hashtag: #GuwaTaMara – “Strength of a Woman”
The International Conference on Women’s Transformational Leadership in Juba was an historical moment on South Sudan’s path to a new constitution and its first elections, resulting in widespread agreement that the leadership and participation of women will be critical to the success and longevity of peace in the country.
Led by Nobel Peace Laureate Leymah Gbowee, the Nobel Women’s Initiative sent a delegation to the meeting for the purpose showing solidarity, sharing experiences, and building supportive relationships with women activists and organizations in the region.
In addition to sharing the message of the importance of women’s engagement in the peace process at the conference itself, the delegation, which included NWI Executive Director Maria Butler, Programme Coordinator Nicole Musimbi, and Philanthropist Kathy Terry also met with local activists in community and social settings, to raise awareness about women’s rights, share stories, and foster solidarity. They visited the headquarters of Crown the Women, an organization created to empower women and girls and to optimize their contribution to nation-building. Riya Williams Yuyada, founder of Crown the Women and Leymah Gbowee were guests on a talk show on Radio Miraya where they spoke about the role of women in peacebuilding and conflict resolution, and how women can be included in peace processes. This event was significant, as it provided a platform for the delegation to share their work and raise awareness around the importance of including women with a large audience that went beyond conference attendees.
Peacebuilder Nicole Musimbi was asked to join a panel on movement building held during the main conference and had the opportunity to highlight the relevance of technology in promoting peace, women’s rights and social change, as well as women’s access to technology.
A key moment was the reunion and first time face-to-face meeting of several South Sudanese alumni of Nobel Women’s Sister to Sister Mentorship Program: Riya Williams Yuyada, Diko Tata Joyce, and Grace Ojukwu. Liberian Sister Norwu Harris was also present.
Nobel Women sees opportunities to continue building relationships and supporting the work of women activists and organizations. It will advocate for the implementation of the Peace Agreement and the Women, Peace and Security and youth engagement agendas.
Specifically, there is the intention to:
- Develop programming that highlights the work of women peacebuilders in the country and provide space for voices and perspectives.
- Make a long-term commitment to support women peacebuilders in the region as well as the implementation of the WPS agenda.
About the conference
The International Conference on Women’s Transformational Leadership brought together high-profile speakers and experts from around the world with local women leaders and activists, for the purpose of generating momentum for gender equality in South Sudan during the run-up to the state’s first election since achieving independence in 2011.
Nearly 500 national and international women leaders from 15 countries including Liberia, Mauritius, Central African Republic, Sierra Leone, Ghana, Tanzania, Zambia Kenya, Australia, the United Kingdom, Egypt and others.
The conference aimed to:
create a space for women leaders to reflect on their personal leadership journeys as they share perspectives and recommendations on the role of women and their leadership across peace and security domains
deliberate on actions and strategies to strengthen women’s participation and leadership; safeguard and deepen gains made; bridge the generational gap; promote inclusion of all women and
- expand networks for shared learning nationally, regionally, and internationally.
Distinguished keynote speakers included Nobel Peace Prize laureate H.E. President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf of Liberia and H.E. Amina J. Mohammed, Deputy UN Secretary General.
The event is hosted by H.E. Rebecca Nyandeng De Mabior, Vice President of the Republic of South Sudan responsible for the Gender and Youth Cluster, herself a celebrated transformational African leader.
South Sudan is due to hold a general election in December 2024. Women in the country are organizing to influence the outcome for issues and circumstances that most impact their lives, opportunities and wellbeing. Their concerns are political participation, promotion of women’s rights, and protection.
After independence was declared, South Sudan endured five years of civil war where hundreds of thousands of people were killed. A peace agreement was signed in 2018 but many of its provisions remain wholly or partially unimplemented, including those addressing women’s peace and security. These provisions also include the establishment of the institutions and mechanisms necessary to hold elections. Foregrounding gender equality in the country is critical to ensuring women can participate both as candidates and as voters.
As in many post-conflict countries the representation and leadership of South Sudan’s women in governance institutions has been on an upwards trajectory based on enabling legal, constitutional and policy frameworks. However, women’s representation still falls below the minimum threshold of 35%. Gender quotas not only remain unfulfilled but the threat of reversal for what has been gained remains high.
Nevertheless, South Sudan’s women have demonstrated their ingenuity and resilience as heads of households and as community leaders. As actors in the liberation movement, they won significant commitments to gender equality through inclusion in the peace agreement processes, in the agreement implementation mechanisms, and in the promotion of human rights at the state and national level.
- Show solidarity with the women of South Sudan and amplify their solutions, analysis and recommendations.
- Call for peaceful elections from the African region in 2023, and inclusion of women in all processes.
The Laureates on Peacebuilding
"Investing in women's leadership is the way we are going to change a world from one of conflict and violence to one of peace and hope." Leymah Gbowee
"True and lasting peace happens when women’s voices are included, human rights upheld, international law respected, and when violence and militarization are rejected as long-term solutions in the quest for human security." Tawakkol Karman
Liberia: Former President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf and Fellow Nobel Laureate Leymah Gbowee Inspired International Women’s Conference in South Sudan, Front Page Africa, 19 February 2023.
- "Time to listen", an article about the importance of young women's inclusion in nation-building in South Sudan by Catherine Vitaliano, a young lawyer and woman leader from South Sudan.
- "Peace or Scam", an article by Grace Ojukwu about the fractured path to peace in South Sudan.
- "Transforming Myself, Others and South Sudan", an article by Riya Yuyada about her personal journey of transformation, and how that led her to support her community and country.
- Informational video about the conference (Facebook)
Photo Caption: The Conference on Women's Transformation leadership provided an ideal platform for the joyous first face-to-face meeting of alumna from Nobel Women's Initiative Sister-to-Sister Mentorship Program, along with staff and a donor. Left to right: Kathy Terry, Co-chair, NWI Philanthropy Circle; Tata Diko (S2S 2019, South Sudan); Riya Williams Yayuda (S2S 2015, South Sudan); Nobel Peace Laureate Leymah Gbowee; Norwu Harris (S2S 2021, Liberia); Nicole Musimbi (S2S 2021, Program Coordinator NWI, DRC); Grace Ojukwu (S2S 2021, South Sudan); and Maria Butler, Executive Director, NWI.